Updated: September 15, 2020 08:32 PM
Created: September 13, 2020 06:12 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —A growing number of birds in southern New Mexico that have mysteriously died have wildlife experts scratching their heads.
“It appears to be an unprecedented and a very large number,” said Martha Desmond, a professor at NMSU’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology. “It's very difficult to put a finger on exactly what that number is, but I can say it would easily be in the hundreds of thousands of birds.”
Desmond is working with a group of wildlife experts from the Bureau of Land Management, NMSU and White Sands Missile Range to get to the bottom of why they’ve been seeing a sudden uptick in deaths. They said one potential reason could be the cold snap that passed through the state last week.
“What is odd is the fact that we're seeing this occur beforehand and we're seeing it occur since then,” Desmond said.
Environmental conditions like droughts could have also played a part in the deaths.
“It can be related to some of the drought conditions. It could also be related to the fires in the west. There may have been some damage to these birds in their lungs. It may have pushed them out early when they weren't ready to migrate,” Desmond said.
Other researchers across the state are also exploring different theories because they said this phenomenon is not normal.
“On the missile range we might in a week find, get a report of less than half a dozen birds,” said Trish Cutler, a wildlife biologist at White Sands Missile Range. “This last week we've had a couple hundred, so that really got our attention.”
People can help wildlife officials by reporting any groups of dead birds on the iNaturalist app.
“If people can, we would ask that they collect the birds, use gloves or a bag to pick it up,” Desmond said. “We don't advocate touching the birds with their hands. Bag them, double bag them and put them in the freezer.”
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